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Saturday, August 20, 2016

Dogs versus Cats


It seems to happen at least once a week. A dog saves the life of a baby, or an entire family, by selflessly putting itself between danger and a human. Dog Saves Infant From Fire, Dog Saves Family From Fire, Dog Rescues Toddler. Dogs are, from all appearances, better people than most people. Which explains why dogs are so popular as pets.

Cats, on the other hand, will most likely not risk their lives to save a person. Oh, there are some stories about a cat protecting a child, or Meatball, the French cat who saved eleven people in a fire. For the most part, though, cats are jerks.

We have a cat. Her name is Princess, and she has appropriated all the furniture in our living room. Princess is almost eighteen years old. She is a rescue kitty, fat and happy, shedding all over the damn place, chewing on carpet, puking on carpet, floors, and yes, her furniture, and I love her desperately. I do not, however, think Princess would save my life during a fire.

I would save hers, no question. If we had a fire in our townhouse, I would grab her first. Then maybe a scrapbook, my wallet, my phone, and some underwear. Odds are, I would probably try to get some of my mother's art out of the house before my husband dragged me onto the lawn. But I would get the cat first.

And I guarantee that while I was grabbing Princess, she would yell at me, struggle, maybe try to bite or scratch me, because she hates to be held. So as I was saving her life, she would be pissed. Cats are jerks.

When Princess goes to the rainbow bridge, it will break my heart. Despite her quirks, and the cat hair all over the place, and all the times we have stepped in warm, squishy cat vomit, and the fringe missing from a Persian rug I inherited from my mother because Princess ate it, and the cat food she sprays under the dining room table, and how she shoots litter five feet onto the floor, I really love her. I will mourn, I will cry, I will miss her terribly, and then I will get a dog.

A small dog, but not one of those dogs you see being walked from a distance, and think to yourself "Why is that person walking a rat?" Our association has a weight limit on pets, which, sadly, means I cannot have a Newfoundland. Or a pony, but that's a different issue altogether. What I really want is a pug. I love the snarfling noise they make when they're happy, and how their whole butt wags.

Having a dog comes with one major drawback: walks. When it's pouring rain, or twelve below, or snowing so hard you can't see across the parking lot, the dog needs to be walked. When it's ninety degrees, with eighty percent humidity, the dog needs to be walked. If you have the flu, or a migraine, the dog needs to be walked. And it has been made very clear to me that if "we" get a dog, "I" will be responsible for the majority of the dog's care, because my husband doesn't really want a dog.

My husband had a black Lab named Joey many years ago. Joey was a great dog, according to my husband. Joey loved my husband so much, he once brought half a deer carcass home as a present. That image-an adorable black Lab, dragging half a deer carcass across the road, tail wagging as he anticipated how happy my husband would be to receive this wondrous gift. Shockingly, my husband was not as pleased as Joey hoped to have half a rotting corpse deposited in front of his house. But he still remembers Joey with love.

I've never had a dog; we've always been cat people. And maybe, someday, when the opportunity presents itself, I'll get another cat. I just really want a dog. I will run across the street, or walk half a block out my way, to pet and chat with a dog. Dogs like me, because I have a special "talking to animals" voice. It's soft, and low, and gentle. It probably wouldn't work on a wildebeest, or a tiger, or a venomous snake ("Hi! Oh, who's a pretty snake? Now, let's not do that, sweetie, no, we don't have to HOLY SHIT YOU LITTLE BASTARD I NEED TO GO TO THE HOSPITAL OH JUST FUCK YOU SNAKE!").

We will have to wait and see if a dog becomes part of our family at some point. Until then, I will care for Princess, and adore her, all the while knowing that she would never, ever save me from a fire. It is more likely that she will, one day, be successful in tripping me as I walk next to her, I will fall and die from a head injury, and she will snack on my corpse.

And then she'll puke on the rug.




Thursday, August 18, 2016

An Evening Surrounded by Heroes


Wednesday night, a group of survivors gathered in Minneapolis. Some were there to lend their support, some were there to speak, while some were there for the very first time. Survivors of rape, incest, sexual assault, sexual violence, and abuse, sat shoulder to shoulder to Break the Silence.

One by one, men and women walked to the front, sat down, took a microphone, and shared their trauma with a room of strangers. But we weren't really strangers; one thing I have learned over the past year is survivors are bound together by a thread. Sitting in the back, my hand gripping my husband's knee, I listened to shaking voices, failed attempts to choke back tears, and the woman behind us shared her box of tissue, as the young African American women next to me silently wept.

Heroes walked into a room in Minneapolis last night. Whether they spoke or not, just walking into that room was enough. Lending a shoulder, or giving a Kleenex, or writing down a message of hope to place anonymously in a brown paper bag, were all acts of heroism.

I spoke. I was number 103. I don't remember much of what I said; I probably laughed awkwardly at the wrong time, because I do that when I'm nervous. I do know I spoke about Children's Theatre, and when I did, my husband said the woman in front of me began to shake. When she took her turn sharing her story, she mentioned CTC, and I sat straight up in my chair. Another thread.

After each survivor spoke, they were given a lit candle to add to the circle of candles on the floor. The candles represented light, and hope, and honored every hero who had broken their silence.

We cried, a lot, last night. But after the event, laughter began to ring out. Men and women were hugging, and talking, and yes, laughing. Because even in the darkest moments, we found joy. We made friends, exchanged email addresses and phone numbers. And we laughed.

I spent an evening surrounded by heroes. It was an honor, and a blessing, to watch amazingly brave men and women, take back their power. It was also incredibly sad to see young people, some my son's age or a bit older, speak about what they have survived. Last night was a reminder of how many people survive sexual assault, sexual violence, rape, and abuse.

To everyone who spoke, to everyone who came to support us, and to everyone who did not speak, but felt the love, and felt believed and validated, thank you. Thank you for your bravery, your empathy, your honesty, and your light. The world is better for having you in it.

I'm Erin, and I am breaking the silence.


Sunday, August 14, 2016

Daniel Fitzpatrick: Another child lost to bullycide


This past Thursday, 13-year-old Daniel Fitzpatrick hanged himself. Daniel, a student at Holy Angels Catholic Academy in Staten Island, was a victim of bullycide. From The New York Daily News:
Before he took his own life, Daniel Fitzpatrick, taunted and bullied, wrote a final, heartbreaking letter lamenting that nearly no one tried to help him.
The 13-year-old Staten Island boy, mercilessly badgered over his weight, grades and his innocent heart, pleaded to his school for help.
But teacher after teacher at Holy Angels Catholic Academy — the principal, too — turned a deaf ear, refusing to intervene, he said in the letter that was never sent.
Finally, overwhelmed by the torment, Daniel hanged himself, his family said.
His innocent heart. According to Daniel's mom, Daniel didn't want to grow up quite yet. Maureen Fitzpatrick told The New York Daily News:
He just wanted to be a kid. He didn’t want to be involved in things that were too mature for him.
A gentle soul, still a child, who just wanted a safe place to go to school.

We lose far too many children to bullycide. And frankly, listening to pundits and politicians, and reading social media, it's no wonder that parents are raising bullies. A presidential candidate who encourages his own supporters to use violence against people with whom they disagree. Cable news hosts and guests, demeaning those less fortunate. Social media posts, body shaming anyone who isn't aesthetically perfect, insulting people with average, or lower-than-average IQs, blaming victims of violence for their own pain and trauma. Society has created the perfect environment for bullycide.

A 13-year-old child wants to be safe, loved, supported, and encouraged. Daniel Fitzpatrick should have been able to reach out to teachers at Holy Angels Catholic Academy with the expectation those teachers would do something to stop the bullying. No one, especially a 13-year-old child, should ever be allowed to reach a point where suicide is an option.

Children learn what they live. Adults who are keyboard warriors online most likely carry their rage and intolerance into their day-to-day lives. If those adults are parents, their children hear them. They hear the racism, the hate, the anger, the cruelty. They carry that with them to school, where they might find a kid who is brown-skinned, or smarter than they are, or not athletic, or just different. They might remember their parent, yelling about Muslims, or immigrants, or the LGBT community, or women, or intellectuals. And those kids who have been immersed in hate might drive a peer to a place of terror and desperation.

As adults, it is our responsibility to raise children who are not bullies. We do that by not being bullies ourselves. As adults, it is our responsibility to listen to children who are being targeted in school, and help them. And as difficult as this may be, it is also our responsibility to help the bullies. We simply cannot throw those kids away; we must provide them with a safe place, too.

Ending bullycide will take a village. It will involve social media like Twitter and Facebook, neither of which take online bullying seriously enough. It will involve schools implementing programs and training for administrators and educators. It will involve parents willing to stop teaching their own children to hate. It will involve an end to stigmatizing mental illness, or anyone, of any age, who needs help.

We can be that village. We must be that village.

If you are being bullied, or are a parent who needs resources, please visit StopBullying.gov, and PACER.org.


Saturday, May 28, 2016

The Rocking Chair


My most valuable piece of furniture is an almost 19-year-old rocking chair. The fabric is faded, the wood is dinged and scratched, and it's missing a dowel or two. But this chair means more to me than anything I own. This chair is where I sat, during my third trimester, and talked to my son. This rocking chair soothed my aching back, relaxed my worried mind, and gave me a chance to start teaching my son I was a safe place.

After he was born, the rocking chair became something even more magical. He would nurse, his head supported by a pillow, and I would sing to him, or speak gently of the world. When he awoke in the middle of the night, the rocking chair provided us both somewhere to sleep: he in my arms, me, exhausted, head resting on the pillowed back. I would rock him when he was fussy, or when he just wanted me to.

As he grew, the rocking chair was a book nook. Many nights were spent perched on my lap as I read "Goodnight Moon," or "Guess How Much I Love You." He would giggle at Dr. Seuss, not necessarily understanding all the words, but falling in love with pictures. The rocking chair was where he learned the beginnings of the alphabet. And the rocking chair was where, when nightmares disturbed his sleep, we would sit quietly as I made the monsters go away.

I have other pieces of furniture that are more valuable, at least monetarily. My great-grandmother's couch, my mother's Chinese silk chair and ottoman. Nothing compares to the rocking chair.

Now, as our son looks to the start of the next phase of his life, I look at the rocking chair, and smile a slightly sad smile. I remember holding his hand in the park, the joy on his face when he met Mickey Mouse and Goofy at Walt Disney World, the first time he swam on his own. I remember his first Halloween, dressed as a puppy from "101 Dalmatians," struggling to hold his candy-filled pumpkin. I remember he and my mom having wheelchair races around my parents' condo. I remember when I was able to pick him up and hold him if the world got too big or scary.

I remember sitting in the rocking chair, with those huge blue eyes looking up at me, as I taught my son the wonders of life. I wish the world could stay that way; innocent, filled with belly laughs and Thomas the Tank Engine. We all have to grow up, though, we all change and move on.

So I will sit in the rocking chair, content that we have raised a truly remarkable man. I will daydream about one day holding a grandchild in my lap, rocking in the rocking chair, and reading "Goodnight Moon," while their little eyelids slowly close. And my smile will be less sad.

Thursday, April 28, 2016

When Bernie Sanders supporters attack

Cartoon by Matt Wuerker from The Berkshire Eagle 

On Tuesday evening, Anne Rice wrote a Facebook post on her page, congratulating Hillary Clinton. Ms. Rice is recovering from a serious illness, and hasn't been active on Facebook, leaving the day to day tasks to her assistant, Becket. Thus, it is likely she had no idea what was about to happen. Within minutes, supporters of Bernie Sanders descended, attacking Anne Rice for her post. It became so contentious, Anne finally removed her original statement, overwhelmed with what she called hate speech. Hate speech like this:
We all saw it. You can pull it down, but you are now on the wrong side of history. Did Hillary promise more vampire anal sex? Or was it just money? Or did you just drop the post to rework it into about 400,000 more words than it needs? Did you know that in creative writing courses today your work is the example of how not to write descriptive text? I'd say you've lost a fan, but since you became a right wing nut job and got intolerably Christy you've lost most of us anyhow. When Trump wins, your books will be on the pyre with everyone else's. And we will all remember how you supported the only candidate who can't beat him. I guess you finally got enough money to become one of them.
 Anne Rice is most definitely not a "right wing nut job," nor is she some sort of paid shill. Anne Rice is a kind and generous woman who took over an hour several years ago to speak to me on the phone for an interview. She does not warrant the hate and vitriol Sanders supporters were hurling at her all Tuesday and Wednesday. And she is not alone. 

George Takei shared this meme with his millions of Facebook followers:

Takei's point with this meme is obvious-we need to keep Republicans out of the White House. The quote, by the way, is from Bernie Sanders. That fact did not stop the "Bernie Or Bust" brigade from going after George Takei with a vengeance, posting things like:
George, you're advocating for people to support a war monger. Hitlery Clinton is Dick Cheney in a pantsuit. She's a vile human being, better suited to be on trial for war crimes, rather than seeking the presidential nomination. 
And:
Very disappointed, your [sic] just telling people to vote the line when you would be quick to throw insults to the other party for towing the line. God forbid people vote with their free will and vote for a candidate they like. And yes I love Bernie and will vote for him if he's the nominee. If Hillary is the nominee I'm voting Republican.
you have lost your mind???.. why in the fuck would you back hillary, the fucking RIGHT WING CLOWN CRIMINAL???
 I can no longer follow you knowing you support an Imperialist, Warmongering Psychopath like Clinton. She's the type of politician that would be standing at the gates of the Internment Camp they threw your family in. Bye, George.
 I just lost respect for you when you put your story for Hillary. We thought you were better than this. I guess even Queens like you can be bought.
 George, stick to the droll puns and gay humor.. Politics is apparently too complicated for you. We're willing to lay it all on the line for what we believe in. Things have got to change! And after THIS fiasco of a primary season, more than ever, it's obvious things have to change. Don't be a corporate puppet. ‪#‎NeverHilLiary‬
Takei made a video, explaining his position, which didn't go over well, either. 

The "Bernie Or Bust" movement is made up of many different demographics, but the most prominent is Millenials. In 2004, researchers Neil Howe and William Sturgess identified Millenials as "as those born in 1982 and approximately the 20 years thereafter." (source) Someone born in 1982 would be 34 this year, and would have been 28 in 2010, the year the Tea Party slithered into Congress, thanks to severe apathy on the part of the left. But when Bill Clinton stated this fact-we lost the House in 2010 because younger people didn't vote-"liberal" media and bloggers lost their minds, because they all think of Millenials as high schoolers. Even someone born prior to November in 1992 would have been able to vote in 2010. 

This November is going to be rather interesting, given how many Sanders supporters are stating they will either write in his name, not vote, or vote Republican. Is Hillary Clinton perfect? Of course not, and neither is Bernie Sanders, but it often seems that Sanders supporters view him as some sort of messianic Robin Hood, and he can do no wrong. And when a public figure dares to post something with which they do not agree, Bernie Sanders supporters attack. 

When this election cycle began, I wonder if anyone saw this coming. That liberals would turn on each other, begin repeating right-wing lies, begin attacking friends, blocking family on social media, becoming misogynists, and behaving like conservatives. A lot of us were prepared for a fight between left and right. We were not prepared for this. At least I wasn't. I wasn't prepared to see a male friend (well, former, after this) post the following as part of an epithet-laden diatribe against Hillary Clinton:
Yeah, I'm done arguing. Y'all go ahead and have your Hillary v. Trump election, and when you figure out the only difference between them is a pair of tits, a pantsuit, 30 IQ points, and a slightly more well-concealed contempt for the poor and minorities, it'll be too late and we'll have balkanized.
Way to go, folks. If anyone ever needed evidence that the "left" wing in this country is no less prone to self-destructive decision-making based on fear, stupidity, and prejudice than the right, tonight's primary results ought to be a good start.
An oligarch in a skirt is still an oligarch.
A plutocrat with a menstrual cycle is still a plutocrat.
An aggressive war hawk with tits is still an aggressive war hawk.
Way to go, folks. If anyone ever needed evidence that the "left" wing in this country is no less prone to self-destructive decision-making based on fear, stupidity, and prejudice than the right, tonight's primary results ought to be a good start.An oligarch in a skirt is still an oligarch.A plutocrat with a menstrual cycle is still a plutocrat.An aggressive war hawk with tits is still an aggressive war hawk.
The general consensus from my friends, one of whom is a Bernie Sanders supporter, was "ew."  

I'm sure Clinton supporters attack as well, and I'm sure some of them have said or written things they could take back. It just seems, at least on the internet, Sanders supporters attack with much more vehemence, more rage, more hostility, and sadly, more parroting of right-wing tripe. 

Hopefully, we can pull it together in time to keep Donald Trump or Ted Cruz out of the White House, but I have my doubts. I've tried asking for pragmatism, for people to look at the bigger picture, and I was attacked. I've been removed and blocked on Facebook for pointing out Pope Francis did not invite Bernie Sanders to the Vatican. I've been called an elitist, a closet conservative, and other names that I prefer not to type. All because, while I am a Hillary supporter, I will vote for Bernie if he is the nominee, and I asked Sanders supporters to do the same-vote for Clinton if she is the nominee. You'd think I asked for Sanders supporters to beat themselves to death with Charlton Heston's gun.

I'm tired of the infighting, I'm tired of being scared to say I support Hillary Clinton online. I'm just tired. Vote blue, please, because honestly, the alternative is truly frightening.


Tuesday, April 5, 2016

What anxiety feels like

Image of Anxiety Monster by Toby Allen

A little over a month ago, I was offered a job. It was a part-time job, at a local organic grocery store. Not a lot of money, but any little bit helps. And I couldn't do it. I wanted to, still do want to work, and I can't right now. Engaging with people is exhausting, trying to keep up that facade of "Hi! How are you? Love your sweater, how are the kids, what can I do for you?" is just too much for me. 

That's anxiety, at least for me. Combined with my PTSD and chronic depression, my anxiety makes it extremely difficult to do the things most people take for granted. For example: This past Saturday, we attended a DFL event. We brought 10 dozen donuts, set up chairs and tables, chatted with folks, sold food, and all of that was so stressful. I kept waiting for someone to say "Aren't you the Erin Nanasi who is suing CTC? Why'd you wait so long? You do know CTC was a fantastic institution, and you 'victims' are just trying to get money, right?" 

After the DFL event, we had a birthday party. I planned it-ordered the cakes, the food, bought the decorations, and put the room together. I lasted about two hours before I could feel the panic start to rise. Different source of anxiety, however. Forty people, in a room not designed for forty people, endless chattering, trying to stay focused on the tasks at hand, while all the while, desperately wanting to just go home. 


One of my closest friends asked me the other day who I socialize with. I shrugged, and made some inane response, but the truth is, no one. I can't. I hang out with my husband, because he understands. He doesn't judge, he doesn't roll his eyes when I tell him I honestly can't handle a job right now, he rubs my shoulders, and holds me when I cry, and gives me smooches. He's my support system. My anxiety can be crippling at times, and this is one of those times. 

I'm trying, though. I am attending a Moms Demand Action house party in two weeks, I'm going out for dinner with my dad, stepmom, and husband next Saturday for my birthday. I'm getting together with friends later on this month. It takes me a bit longer than most to prepare for these outings; mostly, I stand in front of the mirror and tell myself over and over again "You'll be fine, just breathe, you'll be fine."

I guess I would tell others with anxiety the same thing-you'll be fine, just breathe, you'll be fine. Maybe they'll believe it more than I do.

Thursday, March 31, 2016

In honor of my friend

Sabra Thurber, Erin Brock (me), and Kyra Thurber, some time in the late 1980's


I was fifteen when I met Kyra for the first time. And I was terrified. Here was this olive-skinned, worldly, bright, stunningly beautiful girl, and there I was: pale, plain, too-short hair, a few scars already on my arms from cutting. We hated each other on sight.

We have been friends ever since. We've had fights, arguments. stopped speaking to one another, moved away. moved back, survived rape, domestic violence, death, adultery, and general horribleness. A friendship that started out as unabashed dislike bloomed into something that's lasted over thirty years.

When I got my driver's license, my parents forbade me from driving around and around Lake Harriet (in south Minneapolis). This was known as cruising, and since I was driving my mom's car, it was a big no-no. Obviously, I did it anyway. One evening, Kyra, our friend Tanya, and I were cruising around Lake Harriet, and we came to a sudden stop behind a car parked in the middle of the road. To this day, Kyra swears what happened didn't happen, but what happened is she gave them the finger when we finally passed. And they chased us for the next two hours. I drove over curbs, over grass, possibly through bushes, speeding, swearing, most likely crying at some point, because these assholes would not stop. We ended up in the parking lot of a gas station. I threw a shoe at them. We called 911, who didn't believe us, because I guess, in hindsight, it did sound pretty weird. The taillight on my mom's Dasher was smashed at some point, and I had to pay for that. For a very, very, very long time.

Kyra is the closest thing I have to a sister. She is brave beyond measure, caring without abandon, she is a survivor and a thriver. She is strong and funny and gorgeous and no matter how much time passes between phone calls, when we chat, it's as if no time has passed at all. She is what a friend is supposed to be.

And two nights ago, during a phone conversation, Kyra told me I am her hero, because I am telling my truth about Children's Theatre. Kyra was a student there, too, and has her own story. We both received excellent grades, even though we rarely attended classes, choosing instead to hold court in Fair Oaks coffee shop. Fair Oaks is also where I learned to love French fries and mayonnaise. The grades were a surprise, especially the B's we both received in classes that weren't even offered at CTC, but that's another story for another time.

Kyra's family took me in when, at age 16, my mother threw me out of the house. They fed me, and sheltered me, and cared for me when my own mother would not. I have always been grateful for that. My parents-mostly my mom-did not like Kyra, most likely because she saw through the facade, and realized the kind of person my mother really was. Funny, that's one of the reasons I love Ky so much; she knew, she always knew.

We get to see each other this weekend, for the first time in a few years. In honor of my friend, I am cleaning my house (hoping she and her kids will be able to stop by), getting a haircut, and buying waterproof mascara, because I know there will be crying, at least on my part. My husband thinks it's pretty amazing that Ky and I have remained friends for so long, especially since we both have survived trauma. It's not amazing, or maybe it is, but I can't imagine a life without her friendship.

In honor of Kyra, I write about my friend, my sister, my partner in crime (not for awhile but there were things...) and one of the bravest women I know. I love you.